Archived Story

Revenue bump won’t fix school’s budget woes

Published 1:42pm Thursday, December 15, 2011

Niles Community Schools is bringing in more money this year than expected.

According to a recent audit, the district’s 2011-12 revenue budget increased $1.8 million thanks to an unexpected bump in student enrollment and additional funding from other sources.

Even with this financial jolt, the Niles school district is facing a structural deficit problem, according to Supt. Richard Weigel.

“You can’t have more money going out than you have coming in,” Weigel said. “You can’t keep doing that. It is not OK to go into deficit.”

According to budget projections made prior to the audit, the district’s expenses would exceed its revenue by $2.9 million for the 2011-12 school year. The district would still have a $1.1 million deficit after adding the $1.8 million in unexpected revenue.

The district has already cut around $1.5 million from this year’s budget. Weigel and the district’s board of education are asking teachers to provide $2.7 million to help balance this year’s budget. The teachers are currently trying to negotiate a new contract with the district.

Niles teachers’ union president Katherine Elsner believes the district is asking too much of teachers.

“We have heard that teachers are asked to pay their share and to do what’s fair,” said Elsner in Monday’s school board meeting. “This is 93 percent of the shortfall that you want to come from teachers. That is a far cry from the 55 percent that we account for in the budget. That hardly seems fair.”

Elsner argued that the increased revenue could be used to cover a large portion of this year’s projected shortfall.

Weigel said if things continue as they are — meaning if salaries for teachers, administrators and other staff stay the same — the district would be broke by October 2013.

Revenue increase

An increase in student enrollment contributed the most to the district’s $1.8 million increase in revenue budget.

Enrollment this year went up 85 students, generating an additional $1.1 million for the district. The district had budgeted for a decrease in students for the 2011-12 school year as was projected by Middle Cities.

The district also unexpectedly received $344,000 in retirement relief from the state, $350,000 from Berrien RESA and a $20,000 increase in Headlee Obligation, another source of state funding. The audit also showed an unexpected decrease in at-risk funding of $49,999.

All these factors contributed to a budget revenue increase of about $1.8 million.

Weigel said the district can’t expect to receive these funds in the future and that the district needs to fix its structural deficit. He also said enrollment is expected to decrease 90 students by the 2014-15 school year, adding to the problem.

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